For a very long time, Los Angeles has been turning into a shithole.  The people are rude and pretentious, parking in most places is a nightmare, and the cost of living is driving all of the cool artists, struggling actors, and aspiring models-cum-porn stars away to Orange County or Ventura.  With rising gas prices and very little knowledge of the world outside, natives are weary to venture out in search of something better; so, most of the people in “HelLA”  believe that they are trapped in a bad situation and must stay because there is nothing better outside of their precious Valley of the Dolls. 

For a long time, I agreed with the consensus in regards to this matter; then, while on tour about two years ago, I discovered Portland, Oregon.  Friendly people, great food, and a cost of living that is almost half of what it is in LA, where wages are quite comparable.  Also, the average age is 35.  Over the last year, I’ve been sauntering back and forth to the City of Roses and, with your consideration, I will provide an overview of the best that the city has to offer (for a Vegan Hipster from Los Angeles). 

Upon my arrival in Portland, I was picked up by my good friend Mark and driven to my Expedia-picked hotel, the Avalon Hotel and Spa.  This being the second time I’ve stayed at this hotel, I was glad to return.  The Avalon Hotel offers contemporary luxury at a very reasonable rate, even by Portland standards.  The room I stayed in was a River-facing room, complete with balcony and magnificent bathroom that featured a shower adjacent to a tub (use your imagination…I did).  The hotel boasts an on-site Spa, complementary town car service, a full gym, and a walking path just steps outside the door.  Top that with the famous Rivers restaurant being next door, providing the hotel with a better than normal room service menu.  This hotel is perfect for you hipsters that are too cool for the Best Western but can’t afford to stay in a super-trendy hipster hotel. 

After checking in, I was escorted to the Montage, a salvaged Italian Restaurant turned into what can only be described as a David Lynch inspired fantabulous foodbaggery of fantastic proportions.  Our waiter was surly and curt, but he was always coming around, checking on our meal, making certain we were satisfied.  Their choices for Vegans were limited, but the dishes they do have are amazing.  

Our stomachs satiated, we decided to hit the town; Portland has a pretty hefty selection of saloons, taverns, and pubs for your drinking pleasure.  Most feature good live music by bands that aren’t in town only to get signed, and so they actually care about what they’re playing; and all the bars feature drink specials that will get you completely shit-faced for less than the cost of the gas that it took you to get there. 

Favorite bars of the evening included: Berbati’s Pan, Shanghai Tunnel, Dante’s, and the Tube.  After a night of drinking, nothing spells lovin’ like a big old box of VooDoo Donuts—regular and vegan donuts available all night and well into the morning. 

The following morning, I decided to indulge my taste buds at Portland’s leading Vegan restaurant, Veganopolis.  Aside from having a curt but cantankerous middle-aged gentleman behind the counter who obviously is letting the stress get to him, the food was absolutely astounding.  Good portions and fair prices, along with a treasure trove of desserts really sets Veganopolis in high regards with this hungry traveler.  The counter girl was also much friendlier than her decrepit counterpart, which does indeed count for something in my book. 

Portland has so much to do and see, that a week isn’t even enough; amazing shopping on 23rd Street and in the Pearl district, fun-themed bars in Chinatown, and a beautiful river walk are only a scant portion of the myriad activities this city has to offer.  Within the city, there are some amazing historical and cultural places of interest as well: the Japanese and Chinese Gardens, the International Rose Test Garden, the Oregon Zoo, and the Shanghai Tunnels offer tourists days of amazing horticulture, beautiful (and very humanely kept) animals, and a dash of fun and excitement. 

But what about you snooty Silverlake-rs or you West Hollywood types who need to feel as though you’re part of the cultural elite?  Portland still has you covered.  Within the confines of the upscale Pearl District lies the Gerding Theater in the Armory, home to the Portland Center Stage Theater.  This beautiful building hosts two separate theaters: a 599-seat Main Stage Theater, and a 200-seat Studio Theater.  The most impressive aspect of this theater is that it is the first historic renovation and the first performing arts venue to receive the highest Green (Eco-efficient) building rating possible, LEED Platinum. 

My last adventure in Portland was a trip to the Oregon Symphony, for their final performance of Sweeping Excitement.  The Orchestra was founded in 1895, making it the oldest in the West, and one of only six orchestras founded before 1900.  Located at the Arlene Scnitzer Concert Hall, in the middle of downtown Portland, the theater boasts an impressive 2,776 seats, and a seasonal attendance of over 300,000!  Quite an impressive feat for any Orchestral theater.  Well-chosen pieces, a beautiful performance, and a visually stunning theater definitely made the Oregon Symphony a highlight of my trip worthy of a second-time ‘round when I return in the summer. 

Portland offers the traveller a plethora of activities, regardless of their social standing or monetary situation.  From getting liquored up and roaming the streets of Chinatown, to sampling Gelatto and gallivanting your Great Dane up and down the streets of the Pearl, Portland definitely has something for everyone.  No wonder we’re all starting to move there, eh?

Mark Johnston, a native Californian, has travelled the world with various circuses, sideshows, and arena rock tours. As a musical monkey he has delighted fans the world over. Upon his return, he has since founded the Atomsmashers Publishing Company, written 2 books in the company's Warm Horchata series, created a weekly comic strip based around LA's more "colorful" characters, written reviews, articles, and rantings under various pseudonyms; this has since culminated in Johnston being named Captain Fabulous by the Superhero Association of America.